Ricky Skaggs headlines Saddleback’s Bluegrass Festival

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RANGELEY – Saddleback’s green mountain will be turning a bright shade of blue this weekend as a dozen of the top bluegrass performers of today hit the hill for the two-day, non-stop music event.

Ricky Skaggs

The 2nd annual Saddleback Mountain Bluegrass Festival to be held Friday, Aug. 12 and Saturday, Aug. 13 on the slope in front of the ski lodge and will feature top national bluegrass performers.

The first year of the festival held last August drew a crowd of 2,000 concert-goers. This year, ticket sales already indicate a much bigger crowd plans on attending this festival that will feature more music, including after-festival music and jam sessions at the pub.

This festival’s lineup of performers, which festival manager Mark Robie calls “amazing,” includes headliner Ricky Skaggs & Kentucky Thunder Saturday night.

A 14-time Grammy Award winner, Skaggs’ bluegrass roots run deep. The Kentuckian got his start 52 years ago playing bluegrass locally. Then a debut on the Grand Ole Opry stage at the tender age of 7 jettisoned him into super stardom with his own brand of country music played in a bluegrass style.

On Friday, the music starts at 3 p.m. on the main stage and is a who’s who of Maine’s top bluegrass performers today. The Pineland Fiddlers, 317 Main Street Student Ensemble, then two of Maine’s favorites: The Toughcats and Erica Brown & The Bluegrass Connection. If that’s not enough bluegrass for you, Robie has booked the gypsy jazz trio, Ameranouche, to keep the Pub hopping Friday night, as soon as the main stage performance ends. Anyone with a Friday or weekend pass is welcome.

On Saturday, performances begin with local upstart, Mason Strunk at 11 a.m. to be followed by back-to-back top bluegrass performers that include up-and-comers Crooked Still, The Farewell Drifters, Michael Cleveland & Flamekeeper, Darol Anger’s Republic of Strings, Della Mae and Skaggs at 6 p.m.

But it all doesn’t end there. Oh no. There’s a Saturday night jam session in the Pub to be hosted by Phatt Grass, another high energy Maine bluegrass band. Local musicians are invited to bring their instruments and join the show after the band plays a short set. Robie said Skaggs has been invited to join in on the session. There is no cover charge or ticket required to attend the Saturday night jam session.

After the inaugural festival last year, Robie has fine-tuned this year’s event to make it even better. For all those dancers out there, Robie has reserved a big dance area off to the side of the stage so those in the audience who prefer to sit and tap their toes can do so without their view of the stage getting blocked.

Another improvement is the investment in a top-of-the-line sound system complete with 20-foot tall speakers, some of which will be pointed in the direction of the beer garden to ensure great sound quality.

Also, different will be the ticket booth location now to be down at the Trail Center. All guests will go through this station before heading up to the mountain.

Festival seating and camp sites are both on a first come, first serve basis. The ticket booth opens at 9 a.m. Watching the festival from any of the ski trails requires a festival ticket which may be purchased online before the event or at the gate down by the Trail Center. Tickets will not be available in the Base Lodge on Aug. 12 & 13. Entrance to the base lodge over the weekend also requires a festival ticket. Once you have purchased a ticket you will have an identifying wrist band. Tickets are $45 at the gate and includes access to food venues, beer garden and free parking. Camping is extra; $10 per tent and $15 per RV.

Festival-goers are advised to bring a lawn chair and or blanket and to be aware that much of the terrain is sloped. Bring cash to buy food and drinks. Remember the mountain can be cooler than expected and suggest extra layers. Bring a trowel to dig in back legs of chair to make it level. No dogs.

Also, alcoholic beverages are available and allowed only in the beer garden areas and are welcome at all campsites. Alcoholic beverages are not allowed into the festival or outside of the boundaries of the beer garden, due to the state’s liquor licensing laws.

For more information on the festival and the performers or to purchase tickets online, visit: www.saddlebackmaine.com. Or call toll free: 1-877-864-5441.

“I’m really, really excited, ” Robie said of the festival.

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